It can be hard to find good examples of characters in popular media with ADHD, largely because many times the diagnosis is never directly stated, and it is up to fans to determine which of their favorite characters share their condition. Fortunately, the fans have done their job and vocally shared which famous fictional characters have ADHD, and there are more than you might think.
There are lots of great characters with ADHD in film, television, and literature. These characters are generally some of the most loveable in their respective mediums, providing great representations of how having ADHD is merely a part of who they are, not the entirety. Hopefully, with the success of all these characters, there will soon be more in future, but here’s a list of some of the most famous fictional characters with ADHD that are around today.
Emma Woodhouse— Emma
Emma Woodhouse is the lovable but flawed protagonist of Jane Austen’s novel Emma. The novel has been adapted multiple times, though perhaps its best reincarnation is the 1996 movie of the same name starring Gwyneth Paltrow.
In both versions, Emma is a bit of a busybody—she likes to play matchmaker and meddles in the lives of those around her despite their insistence that she stop. Like those with ADHD in real life, she often misreads the intentions and thoughts of other people, leading to a mess of problems. Despite this, however, it can never be doubted that Emma has a good heart. Though she makes a mess of things, she is just as easily able to fix them and learns about herself in the process.
Scarlett O’Hara—Gone with the Wind
The lead in both an iconic book and an iconic movie, many may overlook that the character of Scarlett O’Hara possesses many qualities of people with ADHD. One of the defining characteristics of Scarlett is her impulsive nature, bringing about many of her interpersonal conflicts. Scarlett is also known for growing bored rather quickly, always on the lookout for stimulation. Scarlett is such a great character because she is so complex, leaving many fans wondering whether they love her or hate her at several points throughout the narrative, kind of like people in real life.
Percy Jackson—Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Percy Jackson is one of the few characters on this list whose diagnosis is very straightforwardly conveyed to the audience. As a young teen, Percy in both the books and movies has always struggled staying still and paying attention because of his ADHD. When he discovers he is a demigod, he is told that his ADHD serves a very specific purpose—battle-ready reflexes and laser-sharp focus when it counts. Percy also has dyslexia, because, as he finds out, his brain is hardwired for ancient Greek.
Percy is a great example of a young character with ADHD who puts his condition to good use. With his sarcastic wit and tendency toward heroics, he is perhaps one of the most loved famous fictional characters with ADHD out there, providing a great role model to young readers. Percy Jackson is special, especially when you think about how Rick Riordan’s own son has ADHD and dyslexia, providing the inspiration for the character.
Juno revolves around teen pregnancy and early motherhood and focuses on the titular character, Juno. Juno is a strong, confident character with ADHD who has wicked-smart dialogue and comebacks. Her impulsivity gets her into trouble throughout the film, but audiences love her for her candor and wit. Juno represents a great example of a character with ADHD who is confident in herself, making her a great example of a famous fictional character with ADHD.
Barney Stinson—How I Met Your Mother
Portrayed by the infallible Neal Patrick Harris, Barney Stinson is one of the most notable and memorable characters in How I Met Your Mother and in recent TV memory. This is due to a combination of Harris’ stellar performance and the wacky nature of the character. Barney is a great example of someone whose attention jumps around and who is often filled with an excited energy, ready to take on New York with whatever antics he has up his sleeve next. While there are a few problematic aspects to his character (notably, the womanizing), there is no arguing that Barney is darn entertaining to watch.
Bart Simpson—The Simpsons
The male child in the long-running adult cartoon The Simpsons, Bart is diagnosed within the show as having ADHD. Bart is a very mischievous character, though this cannot be linked with his ADHD condition, as he is essentially the same character before and after he starts his medication for it. Rather, we should attribute Bart’s ability to think outside the box as the main quality that he takes on from his ADHD that he applies in his everyday life.
Feature image via Understood.org